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Food in Fiction

I'm reading Martha Grimes' Emma Graham series (currently on Fadeaway Girl) and have been intrigued by some of the dishes described as being served at the hotel, especially Angel Pie and Ham Pinwheels. After some research, I've found Angel Pie to have an meringue crust, which sounds interesting. Has anyone had or made this?

Has anyone else been struck like this by descriptions of food in works of fiction? The feasts at Redwall Abbey in Brian Jacques' books have also whetted my appetite. What are your favorites?

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  1. I"ve posted on here about the feast descriptions from Brain Jacques' books before!! I tried to make some of the dishes at home, too. FYI ground up acorns don't taste that appetizing... and neither do "oatcakes" made with flour, salt, water, and oats.... haha

    ETA: I was 9 or 10 at the time...

    1 Reply
    1. re: kubasd23

      LOL! I actually have "The Redwall Cookbook," as well as Terry Pratchett's "Nanny Ogg's Cookbook." The October Ale recipe is unfortunately nonalcoholic.

      1. If you are a fan of detective novels, foreign and domestic, you will have noticed that so many of the best and most popular sleuths/cops are chow hounds. Wonder why.

        1 Reply
        1. re: annabana

          That's interesting. The only one that comes to mind immediately is Nero Wolfe, but I'm sure there are others.

        2. When you next open this thread if you scroll down below the last post you will see a listing of related Food Media and News Board discussions, including five threads specifically about food in fiction, with lots of responses.

          1. A song of ice and fire series.
            Here are 2 sites dedicated to reproducing the dishes described in the books:

            1. One of the best books involving food that is a novel, is the fairly recent book "The Cookbook Collector'. WONDERFUL prose, and imagery, involving a catalog of antique cookbooks...

              A MUST read! One of my favorite books of the last year.

              1. Martha Grimes's series with Emma Graham (Hotel Paradise, Cold Flat Junction, etc.) has some memorable scenes involving meals her mother creates as the hotel chef. Annie Proulx's "That Old Ace in the Hole" has some yummy foodie mentions, and "The Hobbit" has a few scenes involving feasts and meals that I enjoy.

                1. There is also The Great Food Series by Penguin Books

                  Like Water for Chocolate great movies and books
                  Babettes Feast

                  1. I know this is an older thread, but I really enjoy the Inspector Montalbano mysteries by Andrea Camilleri. The Italian seafood dishes described are drool-worthy.

                    (Longtime lurker, first time poster-this thread inspired me)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: pedalfaster

                      keep on posting!

                      which other boards do u read

                      1. re: pedalfaster

                        The first few books, OK maybe the first six or seven are fantastic. He goes into the details of describing the food that Montalbano enjoys while solving crimes. Really descriptive of Sicilian food.

                      2. I am reading Alexander McCall Smith's Espresso Tales, which is in the 44 Scotland Street series.

                        This and some of his other genial, gently satirical stories began as daily newspaper serials. So the chapters are short, well-suited for commuter or commode reading.

                        One of the families in this series includes Bertie, a bright 6yr old who wants nothing more than to do typical boy stuff. His father is something of a milquetoast who gives in to the demands of Bertie's helicopter yuppie mother, Irene. She transfers him to a different school when she thinks the one he's been going to doesn't appreciate his remarkableness. In the new, progressive school, the pink dungarees his mother makes him wear means he's an instant victim. When the class bully, Tofu, picks on him, a girl named Olive comforts Bertie, and explains that they should feel sorry for Tofu, whose mother was a vegan, and starved to death. Further, Tofu's father is also a vegan (who has written a book claiming that nuts - as in wal and pea - have feelings) so Tofu will soon be losing him, too. She thinks Tofu is also doomed and starving, as she has seen him steal ham sandwiches from classmates. But Bertie and Tofu start to become pals after Bertie agrees to smuggle a hot dog to Tofu.

                        While I respect the convictions of vegans and vegetarians (I'd BE one if I had more principles and self-control), the proselytizing ones can be pretty annoying and I know of several young children who, like Tofu, scheme to get a taste of meat and dairy. I laughed aloud when Tofu was introduced. Surprised that no Hollywood celeb has yet named their child Tofu.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: greygarious

                          +1. I loved the part about poor Tofu (and the name!). McCall Smith also has stories set in an Edinburgh cheese shop, doesn't he? I have always wanted more detailed descriptions of all those stews and cakes in the Botswana books.

                          1. re: wewwew

                            Is that a short story? I've only read his novels, but he must be a chow hound.

                            1. re: pearlyriver

                              Yes it is a short story in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman collection

                          2. Haven't made anything from it, but I like reading "Lobscouse and Spotted Dog", a cookbook written by two women who tried to cook all of the dishes mentioned in O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series (set in the British navy during the Napoleonic wars). They use period ingredients and methods when possible: they even provide a recipe for cooking ship's rats (they claim they were delicious). A mystery-related book I have cooked from is The Nero Wolfe Cookbook: since one of the main recurring characters is a personal chef, food definitely plays a big role!

                            1. I used to read the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell - one of the parts I really enjoyed about her books were the descriptions of the cooking.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jujuthomas

                                That's funny, because I was about to post that the descriptions of the food and cooking in the Scarpetta books always make me want to throw the books against the wall. The character is always called North Italian, but her cooking is totally red-sauce American. At least she likes cooking.

                              2. The Welsh novelist Alice Thomas Ellis, unfortunately not well known in America, also was a food writer. Her novels are full of food imagery and characters using food to achieve certain ends. In The Sin Eater, for example, the Irish wife of a Welsh aristocrat sabotages her in-laws' annual cricket game against the villagers by incapacitating them with a sumptuous feast the night before the match.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: MrsBridges

                                  sorry to be off topic, but I just LOVE your screen name!

                                2. Chocolat and Babette's feast- beside the movies the novels are a good read

                                  1. Robert B. Parker wrote 37 (I think) Spenser private detective books. One of the things I enjoyed about the series was that Spenser often made impromptu meals, based on whatever happened to be in his refrigerator. His girlfriend, Susan, was not a cook and, when he decided to cook a meal at her house, the refrigerator would have an odd set of ingredients (a la "Chopped" but these books long preceded "Chopped"), he was extremely challenged. In each instance, he managed to put together delicious meals, even though when you heard the list of ingredients he had to work with, it sounded like making a semi-gourmet meal out of these ingredients would be impossible.

                                    In other novels, Spenser described cooking for himself and this was fascinating too, although there had obviously been some preplanning for obtaining ingredients for those meals. (The cupboard just wasn't as bare as when he cooked a meal on the spur-of-the-moment or at Susan's house.)

                                    Though Parker continued to describe cooking meals throughout the series, I think he did less of it in the last half of the series than in the first half. I don't know why.

                                    Anyway, you cannot count on being treated to the description of the preparation of a meal in every Parker novel featuring Spencer, but it is a frequent and enjoyable occurrence.

                                    Another novelist who includes detailed descriptions of meals in his novels (but not cooking of the meals, unfortunately) is Ian Fleming. Fleming denied that his character, James Bond, was a gourmet, but in the early books, Bond certainly acted like one. Of particular note, I think, are the stone crab, buttered toast, and pink champagne meal described in "Goldfinger," the Christmas dinner with Bond's boss "M," described in "Moonraker," and the casino meal with inamorata Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royale." ("Casino Royale" also contains a recipe for a killer martini, christened a "Vesper," by Bond.

                                    About ten years ago, the Tampa Grand Hyatt featured a collection of different martinis and "The Vesper" was on the menu. That was a surprise. (It was good!)

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: gfr1111

                                      +1 on the Spenser series, I can't believe I forgot to mention them for their food connections.
                                      I lament the passing of Mr. Parker, I miss anticipating a new book every 9-12 months.

                                      1. re: KatoK

                                        Parker's wife, joan Parker, the model for Susan, passed away this week. http://nyti.ms/11d7ul9